A House within Thirteen Steps by Limu Design Studio

A poetic Garden of Eden in the bustling world.

Project Specs

Design Firm:

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Appreciation towards L&M DESIGN LAB for providing the following description:


Ten years after EXPO-2010 which made the south of Shanghai attractting global attention, the avantgarde temperament in this region fades and a strong smack of everyday life takes the position. Among thousands of households this case of house renovation brings a poetic Garden of Eden in the bustling world.

▼室内空间一览,interior space



Overview of the Project



This project is presented in the Dragon TV program Dream Home IV (episode 8). The Project is located on the top floor of an old flat in Shanghai. The house plan is L-shaped with no more than 34m2 in measurement and thirteen steps from the north to the south. Here live five people in three generations. The grandparents move here from Zhangye (in Gansu) to take care of their two-year-old granddaughter but they are extremely unaccustomed to the damp weather and rice as staple food.

In this house within thirteen steps, the insufficiency reduces using space and living quality, and meanwhile restrict the various hobbies of the family. Grandpa, a previous tenor, now has to lower his voice. Grandma as an artist has to give up piano. Father can not dance in the house and Mother lays aside her artistic brushes. Other interests like yoga, sports and fitness, tea-tasting, movies and board role-playing games all have to give way to the reality of little room and trivial things, leaving burbles of the toddler as the poetic expectation of the family. 





Extension – the Jade and Exquisite Study


Before renovation, linear space cause much inconvenience in living activities and eye-communication, while each of those hobbies needs a large square room. However, it’s important to change the height(2.7m-2.9m) and width(3m) due to the fixed structure of the old flat that allows almost no removal and replacement. How could 34m2 small house appear to be enlarged and be sufficient while there is no room for horizontal and vertical extension? The answer of the designer is to intensify diagonal line just like the Jade and Exquisite Study.

▼改造后对斜向空间的利用,the utilization of oblique space after reconstruction


The Jade and Exquisite Study is a visiting spot in the Surging Waves Pavilion in Suzhou. Three rooms connect diagonally with each other in the end of zigzagging walkway. The sequence of repeat makes diagonal room more spacious (because they can be used as either three separate rooms or one combined). In the same way is the house transformed. First, the porch, the entrance hall and the grand’s room compose a prototype of the Jade and Exquisite Study so that the sight distance is prolonged from 1.7m to 6.2m.

▼入口处的翠玲珑,Cui Linglong in the entrance


In order to extend the sensed depth when entering the house, the exposed structural beams are covered with wood skin and act in scenic cooperation with the wardrobes in the grand’s room. As stepping inward, one can see the green shadows outside the grand’s room dancing in the breeze. Then the living room, the entrance hall and the kitchen make up of another Jade and Exquisite Study, extending the sight distance again from 3.5m to 7.4m. Through these methods the previous narrow spaces are integrated, and the horizontal distance is extended.

▼客厅处的翠玲珑,Cui Linglong in the living room

▼改造前后平面对比,before & after for the plan


Making the most use of the oblique space saves precious wall space, they are used as the storage space for 22㎡, accounting for 65% of the total interior area.

▼改造前后加重储藏面积对比,the storage space before and after reconstruction

▼魔术盒子般的榻榻米储藏空间,the tatami storage space like magic box



01 入口
01 Entrance

《桃花源记》说:“初极狭,才通人。复行数十步,豁然开朗。” 走过狭长的走道,刚进门的入口相比于原先反倒做了压缩,是一种欲扬先抑的铺垫(也恰到好处的形成了大量储藏空间)。连续的线性灯带勾勒出一道富有仪式感的光的门,沐光而入,扑面而来的就是层叠深远的“翠玲珑”。

The Peach Colony writes, “At first it was found to be so narrow that only one person could pass through it. After walking forward for a few footsteps, he discovered that it led to an open air…” After walking pass the long narrow corridor, one steps into the porch which is deliberately compressed in order to arouse a depressed feeling before turning relaxed, at the same time spares enough room for storage. Continuous light strips define the outline of an honorable ceremonial entrance of the house. Gleaming in the warm light is the intriguing Jade and Exquisite Study.

▼线性灯带勾勒出入口的仪式感,linear lights create a sense of ceremony for entrances


In large scale of whiteness was the wood-skinned beam connecting with wooden cabinet, stretching far across the end of the house. The depressed feeling intrigued by narrow porch and strip light then is released. At the moment of hesitation, the wood-colored logo on the white wall immediately catches one’s eyes, which signifies the host’s family name “Qin”. The grand’s house is also within reach of sight. Within this tension and release, the feeling of the entrance is largely improved.

▼留白墙面上新家的LOGO,logo for new home on white wall


The white wall, the black frame, the wooden beam, the diagonal room, and the poetic conception of the secluded courtyard deep in the bottom of the story.

▼远处灯带拉开空间距离,the lights in the distance extend the space



02 厨房
02 Kitchen


Considering that the family is more accustomed to the northern dietary habits, the kitchen is designed in two parts with a hidden sliding door in between, trying to insulate the smoke while guaranteeing the transparency.

▼内外厨房彼此分离又视线通透, inside and outside kitchen separated from each other but keep sight transparent

▼从内厨房看外厨房,watch outside kitchen from inside kitchen


In order to avoid boredom in cooking meals, part of the wall at the height of eyesight between the grant’s room and the outer kitchen is replaced with glass so that the landscape drawing in the grand’s room reflects into the kitchen as a showcase. Imagine when Grandpa is cooking in the kitchen, Grandma is playing the electric piano, and two look toward one another in accord, then you will appreciate how narrowness fosters intimacy. The inner part of the kitchen is U-shaped with 2m long cooking bench and 0.88m multifunctional sink, facilitating cooking and living. The outer part is linear and the extensible black stone bench stretch up to 1.7m to serve as either a noodle-cooking board or an eating table.

▼紧凑高效的内厨房,compact and efficient inside kitchen

▼对景和借景,view and borrow scenery

▼面食操作台和临时餐桌,pasta operating table and temporary dining table

▼顺手的工具,handy tools



03 老人房
03 The Grand’s Room


The grand’s room integrates four kinds of functions into merely 5.4m2 square room, including tasting tea, playing the piano, sleeping and dressing up. The designer chose a whole piece of glass as the window so as to introduce as much green as possible into the room. The hidden sliding door is also well-designed that could fold in 90° in the corner to fully cut off the light and sound outside at night and maintain accessibility in the daytime. The horizontal showcase-like window, also accessible to be covered with a board at night, again relieves the oppressive feeling of the narrow space. Inside the integrated furniture hide two piano stool and one dressing seat, showing the thoughtfulness of the designer.

▼茶台和琴台,tea table and piano


▼老人房移门,the hidden sliding door



04 客厅
04 Living Room


The partition wall in the living room is replaced with a more flexible one made of wood, giving enough space in north-to-south direction during the day.

▼活动及视线分析,activity and sight view analysis

▼客厅一览,the living room

▼客厅移门,the hidden sliding door

Rammed Earth Wall


The background wall behind TV is decorated with rammed earth, not only because of its fine-grained quality, various color and practicality to insulate noises (which was ever a cause of conflict between neighbors), but also a symbol of Danxia landform in the host’s hometown. The rammed earth wall extends from the entrance hall to the master bedroom door, signifying both space transparency and family nostalgia. The rammed earth wall is totally handmade and is only 150mm thick to spare more usable room. Hiding behind the background wall is a full-length mirror used for dressing and dancing practice.

▼从客厅看老人房,watch the grand’s room from the living room

▼从老人房看客厅,watch living room from the grand’s room

▼延伸到主卧的夯土墙,rammed earth wall extend to the master bedroom

▼酷似丹霞地貌的夯土墙,rammed earth wall Like the Danxia landforms

Picture Frame


The former strip window is divided by the mezzanine into square frame-like openings, transforming direct western sunlight into diffuse reflection of light. The window frame captures beautiful scenery from sunrise to sunset as a unique picture in the house.

▼窗口|画框,window | frame

▼对景天窗,skylights as a viewfinder frame

Flexible Furniture – Table


Although the noodle-cooking board in the outer kitchen can be used as eating table, another folding eating table is designed to meet the demand of big family meals.

▼可变家具之茶几/餐桌,flexible Furniture – Table

▼卫生间折叠门,the folding door for bathroom



05 夹层游戏天地
05 Game Zone on the Mezzanine


The host’s mobility makes the mezzanine possible to be a game zone. The 2mx2m square mezzanine is enclosed with ropes and central-glassed board and shaped as an interesting fairytale land. The whole space is covered with software and the ladder is able to slide and laid in a small angel on account of its convenience. The game zone is like a treehouse in the fairytale, with the providential attention and privacy, softness and delicacy, interest and safety.

▼可移动爬梯,movable ladder

▼上下空间的视线交流,sight communication between the upper and lower space

▼柔软温馨的夹层,soft and warm mezzanine



06 Master Bedroom


The 12m2 master bedroom is the largest room in the house which accommodates many kinds of activities: sleeping, working, singing, dancing, painting, yoga, fitness, role game playing and movies, etc. Every square inch of wall is of significant use in meeting these intricate demands. The bedroom floor is partly lifted as a bed for sleeping, a performance stage for singing, or the spectator seats for watching a movie. The wardrobes on both side provide enough storage room. Underneath the bed are six boxes with activity names carved on the surface, which contain all equipment for various hobbies and a folding baby crib. The folding desk can extend up to nearly 2m for two people to work. The wall is painted with drawing board paint for children to create graffiti works. The hidden full-length mirror is just at hand. The most challenged design, however, prove to be the mini singing hall.

▼主卧室一览,master bedroom view

▼暗藏的镜子,the hidden mirror

▼办公桌和梳妆台,desk and dresser

▼声腔和定制鱼缸,tune and custom tank

Mini Singing Hall


In order to provide grandparents with a better space for practicing voice, the rammed earth wall has to extend into the bedroom to insulate sound. Meanwhile, the designer adjusted the length-width ratio of the room by setting wardrobes rightly. The designer added a continuous vocal cavity to the bedroom and made the ceiling tilt, with grilling breaking acoustic reflection in order to homogenize the acoustic characteristic. All the surface of the furniture is fine-grained and thickened to reduce absorbing of the sound. Finally the 10m2 narrow space gains a perfect effect of 0.6s of the reverberation time.

▼凹槽状的木饰面增强了混响效果,使整个空间都可以成为歌唱厅,groove-shaped wooden finishes enhance the reverberation effect, so that the entire space can become a singing hall


Beside the renovation in space and function, the project has improved warmth, humidity and air quality of the house through a type of blood capillary system to keep constantly comfortable physical conditions, as it is in the hometown Zhangye, 35% in humidity and 26℃ and continual fresh air.

▼毛细血管系统施工,the interior blood capillary system in construction

业主的家乡张掖距离上海近两千公里,而走完这个家仅需十三步。十三步里能走完的是从江南到塞北的旖旎,走不完的是奔波千里的牵挂。就像设计师给业主新家设计的LOGO,以姓氏“秦”为原型,上部“三”象征着塞北的山川;下部“禾”变化为江南的船锚;中间的“人”犹如一片宽大的屋顶,庇护着“禾”——还未长大 “米”宝。远看整个LOGO,好似开怀的笑脸,见证着这个五口之家拥抱崭新的生活。

Zhangye, the host’s hometown, is two thousand kilometers away from Shanghai. But it is within thirteen steps in this house from the southern landscape to the northern scenery. Within thirteen steps is endless nostalgia and care. As the LOGO indicates, which prototype is character “Qin”, the top three lines signify the earth from hometown, the bottom part “He” is like a boat indicating water from the south area, and in the middle of the logo “Ren” is like a big roof sheltering “He” below – “He” represents the two-year-old toddler Mibao. The entire logo appears like a smiling face, a witness of renovation of house and life.

▼设计师给业主新家设计的LOGO,LOGO for the new life

▼改造后平面图,plan of reconstruction

本期梦想改造家节目视频请点击此处观看。To watch Dream Home episode please click here.

摄影: 胡义杰

Main architect: Liu Jinrui
Design team: Feng Qiong, Guo Lan, Luo Di, Wang Jianqiao, Jiao Xinyu, Tang Xuan, Yang Ying, Zhang Dongqing
Project Management: Guo Lan
Urban Consultant: Wang Sufan
Structural Consultant: Tang Xi
Technical Consultant: Zou Mingxi,Hou Xiufeng, Cai Xingjie
Acoustic Consultant: Yang zhigang, Wen Lisen, Wang Mengmeng
Decoration Design: Zhou Yu
Construction Drawing: Limu Design Studio
Construction Drawing Design: Lai Wuyi
Construction: Diran Architectural Decoration Engineering Company, Shanghai
Construction supervision: Li Xiaolong, Shenzhou
Photography: Hu Yijie
Client: Dream Home in Dragon TV
Acknowledgement: Duan Hong, Ni Yi, Zhou Yu, Shi Jun, Yuan Bin, Xu Hui
Email Address: 57172276@qq.com
Location: Shangnan Road, Pudong, Shanghai
Design: 2017.06-2017.07
Construction: 2017.08-2017.10

More:立木设计研究室 (联系方式:57172276@qq.com)。

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